KUNM

Power Surge Sends Sewage Into Rio Grande

Mar 4, 2015

Wastewater flowing into the Rio Grande from the Southside Wastewater Reclamation Plant on a day when the plant was functioning properly.
Credit Ed Williams-KUNM

Albuquerque’s wastewater treatment plant spilled nearly 6 million gallons of partially treated sewage into the Rio Grande last Friday. Public Health New Mexico’s Ed Williams reports there was an equipment failure at one of the plant’s pumping facilities.

Officials with the Southside Wastewater Reclamation Plant say there was a spike in power during last week’s heavy snowstorm. That power spike disabled a pump station.

Plant Operations Manager Charles Leder says backup systems should have protected the facility from power fluctuations.

"Why they did not protect us from this power surge is under investigation because we thought we had just completed a $2.5 million facility that would take care of these things," he said.

The release is a violation of the Clean Water Act, and one of several such violations over the past year. Officials at Isleta Pueblo just downstream are expressing concern over the spill.

Ruben Lucero monitors water quality for Isleta Pueblo. He took samples of river water after the failure at the water plant.

“We collected three samples behind the [Isleta] lakes, and the E. Coli levels there were off the charts,” he said.

Lucero said the E. Coli levels have likely dropped off by now.  

Correction: A power surge caused the problem at the wastewater treatment plant.